Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Personal Sidetrack

With your permission, I want to take a moment to share something that has nothing to do with motorcycles or riding in Ohio. I want to brag about my lil' sister for just a minute.

Almost 30 years ago my lil' sister joined the Newark, Ohio Fire Department. She was one of three women hired that year and the first ever hired by the department. She started out as a paramedic but after about 4 or 5 years transferred to an engine company. She'd done well.

This morning I opened up the local paper and read this story on the front page: Pioneer's Last Day.

She retired from her firefighting job yesterday after 29 years.

Congrats, Lori Lee. I'm proud of you.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Something I meant to share earlier about the Pigeon Forge trip escaped me until a moment ago when I read Dan's Intrepid Commuter blog and the latest Sharin' the Road! post.

Pigeon Forge about 5 or 6 miles long and about a mile or 2 wide (just guestimating this) and anywhere away from the hustle of the vacation strip on the county roads we noticed the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle vines.

For miles and miles the roadsides were covered in blooming honeysuckle, a fragrance so pervasive it reminded me of walking into a florist's shop. It might have added to the sense of well being we had when riding the back roads.
Ride Safe.
Doug C

Tire Question

I first noticed it on Tuesday but attributed it to the wet roadways. (It rained cats and dogs on the way home.) But then I felt the same thing yesterday at lunch and then again this morning with dry pavement.

Its a subtle squirlieness with my rear tire on turns. Nothing that's jerky or abrupt but a slight shift in position that caused my to say, "Did I just slide a little?"

The air pressure is about 1 pound more than recommended so that might be the issue. The side tread seems to be plenty deep. But the rear tire just doesn't seem to "stick it" like it used to do. The bike has 8,000 miles on it and these are the original tires. I had hoped to get at least another 2,000 miles out these but that may not be the case.

Any ideas or suggestions or preferences about tires?

Here Comes the Sun

It has been 3 weeks since the Civic has been driven and I think I heard a small whimper from it this morning. It doesn't need to feel neglected any more because this morning I received a call from our daughter saying her Grand Am wouldn't start. Something to do with the security features which means a failure within the ignition switch. So, I loaned her the Civic to get to work and I'm sure it's glad to have someone paying attention to it.

As I rode into work this morning I realized a sensation that, although I knew I had experienced it all week, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Until this morning.

My morning commute takes me west to the far west side of Columbus, about 55 miles. This is really ideal since I'm not staring into the sunrise during the ride into work. Of course I seldom get to ride in the morning sunlight since I usually leave the house while its still dark. Pondering this inside my helmet I realized I was feeling the warmth of the sun on my shoulders and back.

Now please don't cue the John Denver song. (If it starts I may not get the tune out of my head for a while.) But I think he knew something about simple pleasures and natural beauty. There is a positive ethereal effect of something like the sun on your shoulders, the warmth that it brings. Couple that with a commute on two wheels and many of the problems one faces seem to fade away like the morning mist.

At first I was surprised that it took me several days to take notice of this, but then I realized that this has been the first week when sunrise has been at the same time as my departure. I think Steve Williams was right on target when he said that riding gave him a more heightened sense of awareness.

Ride Safe.

Doug C

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We departed Newark, Ohio mid-morning Saturday, May 17th with cloudy skies that cleared the further south we traveled. The clearing skies were welcome but along with them came high winds - 25 mph out of the WSW with 35 mph gusts. I literally had to stiff arm the bike for nearly 2 hours just to maintain a straight line.

Day 2 of the journey started out wet and stayed that way for the next 4 hours or so. My shins felt like they were being pelted with sleet but I realized that hitting rain drops at 70+ mph only feels solid. The rain travel was almost entire Interstate highway so that made the travel easier.
The most memorable part of the trip was when we traveled through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The temps in Pigeon Forge were right around 70º with forecast highs near 78, so I opted to wear only my jean jacket instead of my leather.

We took the detour to visit Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the mountains with an elevation of about 6,600 feet. Being from the the Midwest, it didn't occur to me that the temps would be drastically different at the higher elevations.

When we arrived at the dome, the temp was 48º and Teresa snapped this picture of me wondering why I didn't dress warmer and looking into North Carolina!
During the entire trek through the park and across the mountains, whenever Teresa couldn't see the other side of a curve she would tense up. I could feel her knees squeezing my hips as we negotiated some pretty awesome turns. But when she saw this sign, she not only tensed up, she vocalized her tensions and asked what the devil it meant.

She calls it the "P" curve and the road spirals downward and through a tunnel before continuing a long left hand arc. I said, "Awesome!" Teresa didn't share the same regard for this section of road.

I don't want to bore anyone here with all of my vacation pics, but if you want to see the online album, click here.

Alas, we did not visit Deals Gap, NC or ride the Tail of the Dragon. We were warned that the NC state troopers were ticketing riders without DOT helmets and a quick inspection of Teresa's head protection didn't show a DOT sticker. (The box it came in was marked as DOT Approved, but there's no sticker.) Curious. So we chose not to ride that section of US 129.

Cherokee was beautiful. Gatlinburg was busy (except for the arts and crafts loop). Pigeon Forge reminded me of Myrtle Beach without the beach. But travel a half mile off the main highway in any direction and you're knee deep in wilderness, sort of.

It's easy to understand why this area is a favorite vacation destination.

Ride Safe.

Doug C

Monday, May 26, 2008

Well, we've returned safely home after spending a week around the Pigeon Forge area, an absolutey gorgeous destination that's really just a jumping off point for all sorts of adventures.

I've got over 300 photos to sort and will be posting some soon. Our cabin did not have high speed Internet access so I've been offline the entire time - almost went through withdrawl.

But there were plenty of these to negotiate...
And vistas to take your breath away.
More later...

Doug C

Friday, May 16, 2008

Packing for Two... Wheels

I have spent too many years traveling by plane, train, or automobile and I must now begin the task of learning how to pack for motorcycle.

We're preparing for the Tennessee trip and I have finally decided that if I have forgotten to pack a left handed whatchamacallit, too bad. If we need a thingamabob that we didn't bring I am certain that there's a thingamabob retailer somewhere that sells it.

I can remember a time when someone would say "Road trip!", and I'd take off with just the clothes on my back. Perhaps I've just collected too much stuff.

We leave tomorrow mid-morning. The first night will be spent in Lexington, KY. Sunday night will find us in Pigeon Forge for a week.

I'll try to post some picks during the week.

Ride Safe.

Doug C

Thursday, May 15, 2008


As expected, it rained most of the day yesterday and both directions of my commute were wet. But at no time did I feel unsafe. Yes, the tar snakes are still slippery and the slight lateral movement of the bike where I could not avoid them was evident. But I felt strangely comfortable riding in the 'less than perfect' conditions.

I found myself traveling a little slower and taking curves with less speed and lean angle. The drivers around me treated me with caution and gave me plenty of clearance. They probably thought I was a madman for being out in the weather.

More than one co-worker called me a crazy person. One even offered to drive me home at the end of the day!
I covered the bike when I got to the office. The saddlebags are leather and although they're well treated and the water beads up in an instant, there's no need to subject them to more elements than necessary.

All in all, I found the experience exhilarating. I was warm and dry on the inside and felt as though I was in control. Although "control" is a relative concept, the anxiety associated with wet riding has passed and has been replaced with a confidence of the bike's capabilities, an understanding of my skill level, and a healthy respect for the possible consequences.

I am I crazy? Maybe. But crazy is a relative concept.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gas Price Blues


That's what the sign at a local Gas America posted; an 80¢ a gallon jump! When I got the email warning about the price increase I suspected something was wrong. "That's the same price as diesel fuel," I thought.

Well, something was wrong. The person changing the sign made a mistake and posted the diesel price in the unleaded slot. The error was corrected in about an hour but that was all the time it took start a panic buying spree at the other local stations where gas was still available at the bargain price of $3.65.

And given the laws of supply and demand, the price didn't stay at $3.65 a gallon for long. The next morning all the local gas stations were posting signs for unleaded at $3.95.

Last night's Newark Advocate published a story explaining the mistake and reasoned that the price jump was due to the panic. But today, 55 miles away in what is geographically another market, the price is also $3.95. So, the likelihood that the panicked buying is the reason for the increase may not hold water.

I think they're just conditioning us for the $4.50+ prices they plan to charge beginning around Memorial Day.

Did I buy any gasoline? Not at the cheaper price. I filled up the lady today for about $15.00 and will be good for the next 2 days of commuting. Yes, it's raining cats and dogs today but my frustration at increasing gas prices is abated by the fact that I'm using less and I'm using it on 2 wheels.

Riding: Cures all types of ailments, is therapeutic for the soul, and transcends oneself to a higher plane of existence.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pigeon Forge Trip is Here

The missus and I leave for Pigeon Forge, TN this Saturday. We plan on taking a leisurely two day ride arriving Sunday afternoon. We'll be there a week staying in a cabin just west of Pigeon Forge.

Here are a few of the places I'd like to visit and some roads I'd like to travel:
Gatlinburg, TN
Cherokee, NC
Asheville, NC
Blue Ridge Parkway

And then a friend told me that if I was in the area I should visit Deals Gap. I wondered just how close I'd be and here's what Google maps told me.

Any suggestions as to what to do and see?

A Year of Firsts

My father bought his first motorcycle in 1982, a new yellow Honda 750. He used to have a scooter around the time of my birth that he would ride to work as a mail carrier. I don't know if I actually recall the scooter or if I just recall old B&W photographs of it, but it was styled liked a 1950s Heinkel and was red in color, I'm told. Anyway, he rode the Honda for 3 or 4 years and then stopped for reasons he never expressed to me.

Dad passed away nearly 5 years ago and I find myself missing him a little bit each day. I would have enjoyed talking motorcycles with him and I'm sure he would have enjoyed reliving his times on a bike vicariously through me.

I was reminded today of something that was said to me soon after his passing: "This year will be a year filled with 'firsts'. They meant, of course, first time events without him being there. During the solitude of my commute, it occurred to me that anytime we start a new adventure, it is filled with 'firsts'. Motorcycling is an adventure.

Today's commute into work provided a 'first' as well. The weather forecaster said "areas of fog" and I never gave it another thought. The air was brisk with temps right around 40º and as I stepped outside I could see the dew was definitely heavy, but there was no sign of any fog.

It wasn't until I got on the expressway out of town that the fog appeared. It started condensing on my windshield first which is not a problem. My line of sight is over the windshield. But then I realized my visor was fogging, too. I opened the visor just a crack to clear it and realized the condensation was on the outside.

A couple of swipes with my squeegee and the water started beading up and blowing away. Not very exciting but an interesting 'first' just the same.

The fog evaporated as I reached the outskirts of the Columbus metro area, the heat island effect, no doubt. Fog, another 'first' to file away in the memory banks. I wonder if Dad ever experienced that?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stockport, Big Muskie and a New Fav

Once a month several riders from the church get together for a group ride. This month’s destination was Stockport, Ohio.

The group consisted of about 15 riders and 8 passengers with riding experiences from under a year to close to 25 years. The journey took us through Zanesville, Roseville, Crooksville, and Malta. We rode through wide spots like Zeno and Cabinville and stopped to pay our respects to a south east Ohio icon in Reinersville.

We traveled state routes almost exclusively, each of them with interesting vistas if not challenging twists and turns:
SR 83
SR 93
SR 669
SR 376
SR 266
and, my new personal favorite road, SR 284.

The Stockport Mill

Our first destination of note was Stockport, Ohio.

Stockport at one time used to be a happening place. Situated on the Muskingum River, a narrow bridge provides river crossing about 100 feet upstream from the Stockport Dam, one of many dams and locks used to control water level on the Muskingum River, whose primary use at one time was commerce, trade, and transportation.

Since 1842, there have been 3 mills built at this location, the current structure in place since 1903, the grinding of wheat grain and the production of flour being its intended purpose from the very first. In addition to its flour production, for twenty years starting 1908, the mill was granted a contract to provide electricity to the village of Stockport for its street lights.

Nowadays the mill structure houses The Stockport Mill Inn and Restaurant. No flour is produced here any longer but after several years of neglect and several more of restoration, the turbines in the basement turn once more and produce electricity to power the businesses under its roof.

Big Muskie

After leaving Stockport, we traveled a circuitous route north, over highways that, at one time bisected open strip mines that produced coal for much of Ohio’s electrical power plants.

A dinosaur of a machine that last saw work in 1991 was Big Muskie, one of the worlds largest dragline shovels. Having been both a part of, and the tool used to reshape the countryside for over 40 years it was disassembled and sold for scrap in 1997, with only the shovel remaining at a roadside cutout which we visited.

Big Muskie would remove the 100 to 150 feet of soil and aggregate that covered rich deposits of bituminous coal, allowing the smaller more nimble earth movers to recover the resource.

All of the area’s former strip mines are in the distant past and the mega sized electric companies that owned the land like to point to this area as a success story of their version of terra-forming. The views are nice, but nothing like the originals of 50 or 100 years ago, I’m told.

A New Favorite Road

About 10 miles north is where we hooked up with SR 284, my new favorite road. The surface is well maintained and smooth with wide curves and plunging descents and ascents. Much of the route is tree lined but the sections that follow the ridge line are open and you can see much of the surrounding county.

Call Me Sparks

Signs like these are posted every mile or so and it was soon after we stopped at the Big Muskie bucket that I was given a nickname: Sparks. It seems that whenever Teresa and I ride curvy roads, more than once I tend to scrape my floor boards.

Lee, a friendly soul and veteran rider (he's holding the miniature poodle) swore he was going to bolt on some magnesium flints to my floor boards so I could provide a light show to go along with the sound I was making. I smile and mention something about habits of my old race circuit days which caused them to laugh even more, since they know I’ve never spent a minute on a track.

Sweet Rewards

The last leg of the return trip found some of our group needing to depart early and we waved goodbye to them when we returned to Zanesville. For those who decided to linger, desert was in order at Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl.

Tom’s has been around as long as I can remember selling it own quality ice cream concoctions and chocolates as well as nuts, with servers and cashiers wearing white shirts and pants sporting trim black bow ties.

And Tom’s is always busy. It’s one of those places that serve a sundae in a bowl sitting on a saucer because they always put too much sweet goodness – ice cream, sauce, whipped cream, nuts, whatever – in the bowl.

The contents of the bowl finds it way down the sides, a delicious mess for those with a sweet tooth or more accurately a sweet fang. A two dip sundae probably equates to well over a quart and easily accommodates two patrons.

Soon after eating too much and being a bit anxious to hurry home before the drowsiness of overeating kicked in, we departed Tom’s and said “Goodbye” to rest of the group. Teresa and I had spent about 5 hours on the road, including stops for everything you could imagine except a breakdown; a total of about 225 miles of some of the best geography in the state.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Newly Weds Ride

Earlier this week I wrote about how we met Corbin and Sarah, newly weds riding a motorcycle, he in his tux and she in her gown. I never got their last name after I snapped their picture.

The missus wondered out loud if Corbin could be the son of an old friend we know. "Its the only Corbin we know," she said, and so we tooled around to where our friend Greg and his lovely wife Cindy live. Greg just happened to be walking outside the house at that moment so we stopped and asked.

"Did Corbin get married last week?" we asked.

"Yes!" was the answer and so we told our story.

So, Congratulations! Corbin and Sarah Huffman. Have a great time in the Dominican Republic!

Friday, May 9, 2008

4000 Mile Maintenance

The odometer on the black and chrome lady turned 4000 miles earlier this week. 4,836 miles actually, by my recollection. So today she spends the day at the shop getting her scheduled maintenance and a check up before the Tennassee trip.

The dealership is about 25 minutes from home in the Mt. Vernon area. So the missus followed me there right after work yesterday. Teresa was the only lady looking nice when we arrived. The skies opened up on the way and by the time we pulled into the garage, the Boulevard was soaked and not very shiny.

The only thing on me that got wet was an ankle (the rain suite had crept up my leg) which proceeded to fill my boot.

Some things I learned during my wet ride:

  • The speedometer is about 7 mph faster than actual @ 55mph
  • Water lies on my upper back or lower shoulders; doesn't get blown off
  • Roadkill opossums can get really flat after a day or so

I'll pick the lady up tonight after work and get prepped for the fun run tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Calling the Horse Race

What a great morning for a two wheeled commute!

Each day this week the riding conditions have been perfect. The first couple of mornings started out a little chilly, about 40º or so, but this morning was a balmy 55º. And the sun is rising at around 6:15 so I get to see the landscape.

I started doing something during my freeway ride this morning that sounds a little neurotic. Maybe others do it, too.

My commute can get a little boring, seeing the same miles of pavement day after day. Its easy for me to lose my concentration about riding and start thinking about how to solve some computer problem at work. So, I've started talking to myself during the ride, calling out and naming the vehicles around me.

The guy driving the Volvo to my right is the Volvo Dude. The lady in front of me with the blue star sticker in the window is Army Mom. And the young woman in the Mitsubishi convertible holding a coffee cup is Latte Lady. (When I saw her take a sip, I would have given just about anything at that moment for a cup of plain old joe!)

Its almost as if I am a track side announcer calling a horse race. I know it sounds silly, but it keeps me engaged and not totally locked in on the car in front of me and my following distance.

So am I nuts or have I discovered a trick the veteran riders practice?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month posted an article today about May being Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

The official launch was held at a news conference in D.C. where one the leader of the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus, Rep. Michael C. Burgess M.D. (R-Texas) spoke.

One of the paragraphs that jumped out at me was this one:

Burgess added that he has introduced a bipartisan bill to fix a loophole in the HIPAA law that allows insurers to deny payment for injuries sustained while engaged in recreational activities like motorcycling.

I didn't know that little tid bit. The article quotes Rep. Burgess as saying:

There are many other reasons why motorcycles are so popular, but one explanation is simple economics: the rising cost of gas. Motorcycles offer a more fuel efficient and cheaper way of getting around. I am proud that, as a motorcyclist, I am leaving a smaller footprint on our earth by just riding my bike.

This sounds like my kind of politician. Besides being a congressman, he is also a physician and a motorcycle rider.

It was interesting reading and you can find the entire article here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Congratulations, Corbin and Sarah

Saturday morning in central Ohio brought showers and thunderstorms. But by 2:00 pm the sun was breaking through the clouds and the missus turns to me and says, "Let's go for a ride." You gotta love a woman like that.

So we took a leisurely loop around the area and ended up at the Ye Olde Mill, a restaurant and ice cream shop at the home of the Velvet Ice Cream plant. Its called Ye Olde Mill because it is on the site of an old grist mill.

There's a water wheel that doesn't turn anything but it does rotate and gives the illusion that one has stepped back into time.

One side of the property is the commercial enterprise and the other side is a park. The two are separated by the ice cream shop. The commercial side houses the ice cream production, storage and delivery facilities. The park is part play ground, part petting zoo, part nature education center and part pond with dozens of ducks, geese and a couple of swans.

After finishing up my sandwich and partaking of an "old fashion" sundae, which tasted a lot like a contemporary sundae, Teresa and I walked outside and visited this goat and sheep.

I tried to get Teresa to put her face in one of these cutouts but she declined.

As we departed the mill, another rider and passenger turned into the entrance and they immediate caught my attention. Trailing their bike was a string and a couple of time cans. The rider, Corbin I learned later, was dressed in a tuxedo and the passenger, Sarah, was dressed in a white satin gown hiked up to her knees. The sign on the back of the tail trunk said, "JUST MARRIED."

We pulled a U-turn and followed them back into the parking lot and asked permission for a photo, which there were happy to oblige. I didn't get the last name but when the announcement comes out in the local paper I'll send them a copy of the photo.

What a great way to start a new life together - on two wheels! Best to you, Corbin and Sarah! Congratulations!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Close Call Friday

With the jury duty complete, it was back to work today. I probably should have stayed home since I need to go to the data center tomorrow and change the batteries in a couple of big UPSes. But, I went ahead and made the trip into work. It was a difficult chore since I was riding. NOT!

During the ride in I did follow another rider commuting via sport bike. But he was the only thing noteworthy during the 55 miles to the office.

About mid-morning I made a trip to the local computer store to pick up some CD-Rs and that's when I started noticing several drivers at cross streets that would start to enter my space but then stop. My anxiety level was increasing ever so slightly.

The traffic on my way home for the day was heavy especially on the north outer belt, I-270. If I had my 'druthers, I ride in the hammer lane of that highway every time. That way, the idiots driving their cars can only get you from one side. But try as I might, I have a very hard time maintaining the speed for that lane - 85 mph minimum with a posted limit of 65 mph. Its nuts!

Anyway, 20 miles later I merge over into the slow lane since my exit is approaching. Cruising along at a respectable 70 mph with about 2 miles to go before my turn off, I hear a car horn. It's very close. And I realized that my concentration has drifted and my mental map of the players around me is not valid anymore.

A quick head check to the left showed that an F-150 pickup two lanes over was muscling a Mazda Protege for the lane to my left and the Protege was creeping towards me. In fact, it was two feet into my lane before the truck stopped his infringement and the Protege was able to get back where they belonged. I had already shifted to the center of my lane but if I had wanted to, I could have kicked the passenger mirror off!

Anyway, I made it to my exit and promptly found a county road heading east: less traffic, no construction, and only the occasional crazy groundhog or skunk.

I think I'll start wearing a Hi-Viz vest, especially on Fridays.